Soil quiz bowl to test agriculture knowledge

July 25, 2014 12:00 pm  • 

Local agriculture buffs will be able to show off their soil knowledge with the launch of a new contest at this year’s fair.

The Jackson County UW-Extension office is organizing a first annual soil quiz bowl to test local residents’ soil skills.

The event will run throughout the fair and will allow participants the chance to win free soil sampling or fertilizer application.

The soil contest and information replace farm safety demonstrations and displays that the extension has provided the past few years.

“We wanted to try something different,” said county agriculture agent Trisha Wagner.

“We know that soil science and soil conservation are popular topics in Jackson County.”

The extension, in conjunction with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, also will have educational displays on hand on soil science and conservation at a booth in the Milt Lunda Memorial Arena.

There will be a number of soil cores from around the county that show various soil types and land management’s impact on soil quality.

The displays will be on hand every day of the fair and quiz bowl participants also are welcome to enter and participate in the contest any day of the fair.

The contest is more adult-appropriate but youth approximately 12 years and older who have had some soil science education also would be good contestants, Wagner said.

Daily prizes include 10 acres of soil sampling or fertilizer application and a grand prize for an overall winner will be 10 acres of grid-point sampling and will be appropriate for farmers or gardeners.

The extension also will have the county’s Master Gardeners on hand to field questions on gardening and horticulture for the public.

“We hope people come out,” Wagner said.

Wagner said officials should be on hand throughout each day of the fair but may be gone from the soil sampling booth for briefs periods for breaks.

A volunteer is anticipated to be present from 4:30-9 p.m. for questions or to assist participants, she said.

For more information, contact the extension at (715) 284-4257.

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Start the pressure-canning season off right

1406044499000-CanningFor News-Herald Media 4:01 a.m. CDT July 23, 2014

NEILLSVILLE As the canning season heats up, it’s a good time to check over your pressure canner to make sure that it is working properly. While a boiling water canner is used for canning acid foods like peaches or pears, a pressure canner must be used to safely process low-acid vegetables like peas and green beans, as well as meats.

Modern pressure canners are lightweight units with special safety features that make home canning easy, says University of Wisconsin-Extension food science specialist Barbara Ingham.

“Today’s pressure canner has a dial gauge or a weighted gauge for indicating and regulating pressure,” said Ingham.

Dial gauge canners usually have a counterweight or pressure regulator for sealing off the open vent pipe to pressurize the canner. This weight should not be confused with a weighted gauge and should not jiggle or rock during the canning process.

Weighted gauge canners are usually designed to jiggle several times a minute or to rock gently when they are maintaining the correct pressure. “Read your manufacturer’s directions to know how a particular weighted gauge should rock or jiggle to indicate that the proper pressure is reached and then maintained during processing,” Ingham said.

Getting started

• When removing your canner from storage at the start of the season, start by washing it in warm soapy water; then rinse and dry.

• If you have a dial gauge canner, do not immerse the dial in water.

• Inspect the gasket. “It should be flexible, not hard or cracked,” Ingham said.

• Do not store the gasket in the lid. Instead, after each use, remove the gasket from the lid, rinse in warm soapy water and allow to air dry; then store in the base of the canner.

• Inspect the vent port, making sure that it is free of debris and will allow air and steam to flow freely.

“I often answer questions about pressure canning, and I recommend that the first thing you can each year is water,” Ingham said. To do this, place warm water in your canner as directed in the user’s manual, seal the canner lid in place, and place the canner over high heat to vent. Allow the canner to vent for 10 minutes; then seal the vent port with a counterweight (dial gauge canner) or the weighted gauge, and allow the canner to pressurize.

“This relatively quick process lets you check the gasket to make sure it will seal the canner and see that everything is working,” says Ingham. Once you are sure that the canner is functioning properly, you can turn off the heat and allow the canner to depressurize.

“Checking your canner with water may save you a few frantic moments later in the season before you pressure-can items such as meat or corn only to find that your canner isn’t working,” Ingham said.

If you are using a dial gauge canner, the dial should be tested every year to make sure it is working correctly. “Even brand new gauges out of the box should be tested,” Ingham said.

Most Wisconsin county UW-Extension offices offer dial gauge testing. Clark County UW-Extension, 517 Court St., Room 104, Neillsville, is available for your testing needs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, no appointment needed.

To learn more about keeping food safe, contact Clark County UW-Extension office. Contact Nancy Vance, 715-743-5121, nancy.vance@

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Good garden hygiene important to prevent blight, fungus

tomatoes10:57 a.m CDT July 24, 2014

So far our summer has been a bit cool and wet, but that can change at a moment’s notice. Being cool and wet opens the door to a number of not-so-nice plant troubles in the veggie garden or the flower bed — things like blight, fungus, mold, wilt and bacteria of countless strains and varieties.

The University of Wisconsin-Department of Plant Pathology indicated that as of July 18 late blight has been confirmed in Portage County of the US-8 genotype. Early blight is above the P-day rating for early and mid-season crops, but not yet for the late-season crops. This means that early blight is very possible, but not yet confirmed. Potato growers already have been working to reduce the occurrence of blight. It may be prudent for home gardeners to do the same. For more information on blight, head to the UW-Extension website at Amanda Gevens is the specialist heading up this research.

At the Extension office there have been numerous calls and walk-ins with sad-looking samples of tomato, eggplant and pepper. These are of the same plant family as potato and subject to the same ailments. So, far we have had some bacterial canker in tomato, which causes part of an otherwise healthy plant to have branches wilt completely. The diagnosis from Madison was to remove and destroy these tomatoes, and to not plant in the same place for at least two years, four years is better.

Leaf spots have been more common; one such is Septoria leaf spot. Along with the previously mentioned blights, Septoria leaf spot is caused by a fungus. Similar to programs used by commercial growers, early application of a fungicide works the best for home use. To be effective, the first application should be made before the disease has entered the plant tissue, but early identification is difficult. Be sure to follow label directions when using fungicides and use only those labeled for your specific vegetable.

Good garden hygiene is important. First, don’t plant in the same place in consecutive years. Use a good crop-rotation regimen. A good place to look for info is; in the search box type in A1989 or A2801. Second, keep plants off the ground; use some sort of cage or trellis to elevate plants. Don’t allow leaves or branches to touch the soil either, pinch or prune low hanging leaves and any that may be turning yellow or brown. Do not compost stems that indicate any signs of disease; bag and throw in the trash or burn. Disinfect tools with a bleach or alcohol solution if there is any sign of disease so it doesn’t spread to neighboring plants. Third, use mulch around your garden treasures, but not touching the stems. Mulch keeps the soils cooler, holds the moisture at a more constant level and especially, when watering, it keeps soil from splashing unto the plants, keeping down the possibility of infection since fungus resides in the soil.

From the flower garden, plants that have been brought in have indicated a bacterial blight on geranium and numerous perennials that have not returned after the hard winter. Trees and shrubs also are looking nasty, again likely from weather-related stress. Warmer, drier weather should clear up at least some of these issues.

Walt Rasmussen is the summer horticultural assistant for the University of Wisconsin-Extension Portage County. To reach him, call 715-346-1589.

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Check out unique plants in these Kenosha yards

   Gardeners enjoy success with desert plant, European pruning technique

Published July 24, 2014


Here in Kenosha County, it’s not unusual to see hostas growing in someone’s yard. And while roses, peonies and hydrangeas may be beautiful, most folks don’t bat an eye when they see them in a southeastern Wisconsin garden because they’re pretty common in these parts.

But every now and then a plant growing in a Kenosha yard gets noticed because it’s unexpected.

Cactus grows on her478109671_

Sometimes even the gardener is caught off guard.

Take Elaine Ibsen. She never envisioned a cactus in her Kenosha yard.

While the 85-year-old always has been interested in unusual plants, it seemed far-fetched to expect a desert-typical one to flourish here in the Midwest. But that’s exactly what’s happened.

“Who would want a cactus?” Ibsen said. “They are full of spikes and needles, but now I’m enthralled. I’ve changed my mind about them.”

Three years ago, a friend gave Ibsen four cladodes — Ibsen refers to them as paddles — from a prickly pear cactus. Ibsen planted two in her yard, and to her surprise, it’s thriving and even flowering.

478109673_In the winter it sits under piles of snow deflated, and in spring it inflates and keeps reaching for the sky,” she said. “It gets more and more paddles. And this year I had lots of beautiful yellow flowers on it.”

The plant is not native to Kenosha or southeastern Wisconsin, but it is naturally found in other parts of the state, according to Barb Larson, horticulture educator at Kenosha County University of Wisconsin-Extension.

“I’ve seen home gardens in the Midwest with prickly pear cactus, but many people don’t want to grow them because of the thorns,” Larson said.

The thorns can be a nuisance for Ibsen. That’s why she has fenced the cactus to ensure children and others do not fall into it.

“I didn’t want anyone to get close enough to be hurt,” she said. “I don’t like to even weed around it because I have gotten pricked.”

Luckily, the cactus is low-maintenance and winter-hardy, making it one of Ibsen’s favorite features in her garden.

“I’m now 85 years old, and my knees are bad,” she said. “My kids bought me a cart to sit on when I’m outside working, but it is still hard to get up. It’s nice that I don’t have to pay much attention to (the cactus).”

Turning heads with a two-dimensional pear

Kenosha resident Dave Sanders also finds enjoyment in planting the unexpected in his private garden. The retired landscaper likes to stray from common garden layouts.478109675_

“When you’re doing landscaping, the customer always wants what the neighbor has,” Sanders said. “I was always interested in things that were not the same thing. When you get home from a day of seeing gardens, you want to look at something different.”

He has experimented with many varieties in his time, and has been successful with a few. One of Sanders’ treasured plants is a 10-year-old pear tree that has been pruned in the espalier technique. Twice a year, Sanders prunes the pear tree, which allows it to take on a flat shape.

Larson said espalier is a pruning and training technique to grow a tree in two dimensions instead of three. The tree is trained to stay flat against a wall to save space.

“It is used fairly often in European gardens and very small urban gardens in the United States. You will usually find them in very urban areas with limited growing space,” Larson said. “It is a technique that is done by people who want fruit trees, but do not have the space. So, they grow the tree against a wall or a fence, and they trim it to be flat against the wall. It gives them the apples and peaches they’d like, but not as many as a full tree would produce.”

Sanders said he always was interested in the pruning technique. The tree does not bear fruit because it’s along his garage, which is shady.

478109676_“If I moved it, it probably would (grow fruit), but I like it where it is because it fills up that blank space,” Sanders said.

Since owning the pear tree, he also has used the pruning technique on a crabapple tree and given a home to a rare medlar fruit tree from Eastern Europe.

Sanders has never tried eating the medlar fruit since planting it four years ago. He said he expects the tree to produce its largest crop later this summer. Medlar is only eaten raw after bletting, a process in which the fruit is spread on some type of absorptive material, such as straw, sawdust or bran, and allowed to ripen for several weeks in a cool place.

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Possible threat to potatoes

Potato Blight Update WEB 7-24-14LANGLADE COUNTY – Farmers in Central Wisconsin need to keep a close eye on their potatoes.

Agricultural leaders from UW-Extension received a report of late blight from a farm in Portage County. Late blight is a disease that can kill potato and tomato crops.

The blight was found last week near Stevens Point, and leaders are worried about it spreading into Langlade County. Late blight can spread out several miles though the wind and the water. Agriculture experts in Langlade say there are certain things that you can do to protect your crops.

“Go out and scout them, look at them, we would like you to also spray protectants,” says UW-Extension Agriculture Agent Stephanie Plaster. “Home gardeners should be spraying a copper or chlorothalonil-based spray. There are also organic copper sprays available for folks that would like to remain organic.”

Last year, late blight caused millions of dollars in damage and wiped out more than two entire potato fields in Langlade County. Gardeners and farmers should stick to a strict schedule to protect their tomatoes and potatoes.

“Farmers should be on a five to seven day spray schedule and be scouting in-between,” says Plaster. “Really, we would like home gardeners to be doing this as well, because this is a community disease. Once it hits our seed potatoes in Langlade County, it can really do millions and millions of dollars in damage. It can wipe out a whole field in three weeks.”

Leaders recommend the copper-based spray to help kill the late blight. The blight report out of Portage County is the only report in the entire state this year.

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UW-Madison’s Shaver Earns Dairy Nutrition Research Award

Wisconsin Ag Connection – 07/25/2014
Randy Shaver, Ph.D., an expert on dairy cattle nutrition, was awarded the American Dairy Science Association Nutrition Research Award this week for his professional achievements. The annual award is jointly sponsored by the American Feed Industry Association and ADSA.

Shaver is a professor of dairy nutrition for the Department of Animal Science at the University of Wisconsin. His extension and research programs focus on applied nutrition of lactating dairy cattle. He has advised or co-advised 29 master’s or doctoral students at UW-Madison.

He is an author of 88 peer-review journal publications, 170 scientific abstracts, 101 popular-press articles in industry trade magazines and 249 newsletter articles, extension handouts or bulletins, and internet publications. Randy has also presented 590 invited papers at industry conferences in 46 states and numerous foreign countries.

Shaver has previously received the ADSA Pioneer Hi-Bred Forage Award, ADSA DeLaval Dairy Extension Award, ADSA Nutrition Professionals Applied Dairy Nutrition Award and UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Pound Extension Excellence Award.

“Shaver is a life-long dairyman, growing up on a Pennsylvania dairy farm before transitioning to the nutrition side of the business,” said Richard Sellers, AFIA’s senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs. “With his tremendous track record in the field, it seems only natural he be awarded the ADSA Nutrition Research Award for his lifelong commitment.”

Shaver received a master’s degree from the University of Maryland’s Department of Animal Sciences then completed his doctorate degree in dairy science at UW-Madison in 1986 after conducting research at UW-Madison and the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center.

The award was established in 1948 to promote and stimulate research in dairy cattle nutrition.

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EXTending a hand in Dunn County

July 26, 2014 2:30 pm  • 

I fondly remember eating from delectable jars of beets, dilly beans, pickles, applesauce, meat and corn during my childhood. Pleasant memories for me, probably just a necessity to stretch the food dollar for my mother.

A practice once associated with grandmothers, 4-H-ers, zealous gardeners with too many tomatoes, and the occasional survivalist, home canning seems to be making a bit of a revival as of recent years. UW-Extension has the resources to make sure your home-canned products are safe.

Make sure your canner is working properly. While a boiling water canner is used for canning acid foods like peaches or pears, a pressure canner must be used to safely process low-acid vegetables like peas, beans, and meat

Today’s pressure canners are light-weight units that may have a dial gauge or a weighted gauge for indicating and regulating pressure.

Dial gauge canners usually have a counterweight or pressure regulator for sealing off the open vent pipe to pressurize the canner. This weight should not be confused with a weighted gauge and is not designed to jiggle or rock during the canning process. The dial gauge should be tested annually. This is a free service provided by your Dunn County Extension. Only the lid is needed for this testing.

Weighted gauge canners are usually designed to “jiggle” several times a minute or to keep rocking gently when they are maintaining the correct pressure. Read the manufacturer’s directions to know how each canner should operate.

Getting started

  • When removing your canner from storage, start by washing in warm soapy water, rinse and dry.
  • If you have a dial gauge canner, do not immerse the dial in water.
  • Inspect the gasket, it should be flexible, not hard or cracked. Never store the gasket in the lid. Wash, air dry and store in the base of the canner.
  • Inspect the vent port, making sure that it is free of debris and will allow steam to flow freely.
  • Avoid stress later with a trial run to check the operation of your canner by first canning water.
  • Place warm water in canner as directed in the users’ manual, seal the canner lid in place, and place the canner over high heat to vent. Allow the canner to vent for 10 minutes, then seal the vent port with a counterweight (dial gauge canner) or the weighted gauge, and allow the canner to pressurize. Once the canner is holding the pressure properly, turn off the heat and allow the canner to de-pressurize on its own.

Critical difference: A pressure cooker is not the same as a pressure canner! Pressure cookers rapidly cook foods, but may not maintain adequate pressure for home canning. They also heat and cool too quickly for recommended processing.

Add Acid to tomatoes when canning: Here’s why!

One of the biggest changes in home canning occurred in 1994 with the new recommendation to add acid to home-canned tomato products.

The amount of acid in a food is recorded as the pH value. Foods with a pH value of 1 to 4.6, like oranges and apples, are considered “high acid”, and Clostridium botulinum will not grow and produce a deadly toxin. Processing of these foods can be done with a boiling water canner.

Foods with a pH value between 4.6 and 7.0, like meats and vegetables, are considered “low acid” foods. Clostridium botulinum is able to grow and produce toxin unless the food is heated to high temperatures in a pressure canner. Tomatoes are right in the middle.

Tomatoes for many years were considered high acid. However, tomatoes are fruits and, as such, the amount of acid in tomatoes varies dramatically over the growing season. Acid content in tomatoes is highest in unripe (green) fruit and reaches the lowest point as the fruit reaches maturity.

The amount of acid also varies based on the climate (the amount of heat/sun/rain), the soil, the variety, and other factors. Researchers now know that tomatoes are not consistently high in acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product, or after the jars are filled and before the lid is applied.

  • Quart jars– 2 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice or ½ teaspoon citric acid
  • Pint jars – 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon citric acid
  • Citric acid is commonly available in the canning supply section of retail stores or from companies such as Ball or Kitchen Krafts.

Join our next food preservation webinar — Canning Fruits Safely — from noon-1 p.m. on Aug. 11, noon-1 p.m. at in Room 112 at the Dunn County Government Center (800 Wilson Ave., Menomonie). Call the UW-Extension Office at 715-232-1636 to register.

Sandy Tarter is the Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program (WNEP) Coordinator for the UW-Extension, Menomonie and Chippewa offices. She can be reached at, or 715-232-1636.

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Crop outlook is strong in area

53dbf99d06500.preview-620July 29, 2014 3:30 p, By Jason Cuevas

With moderate weather and regular amounts of rain, the crop outlook for this season is strong, said area agricultural agents. It looks to be a healthy season both in Wisconsin and nationally.

George Koepp, Columbia County UW-Extension agricultural agent, said most of the county crops look strong after a hard start. The long winter caused some issues, but everything planted seems to be doing well. Some low lying areas have had issues with being too wet.

The positive outlook was shared by Craig Saxe, Juneau County UW-extension agricultural agent. He was also pleased with the rain amount and said the lack of high heat has kept the crops from experiencing additional stress.

More sunshine would help the crops grow a bit, said Donald Genrich, Adams County UW-Extension agricultural agent. Adams County is filled with sand which has led to many farmers installing irrigation. After the poor rainfall years of 2012 and 2013 the county had a marked increase in irrigation instillation.

“It all has to do with distribution,” Genrich said. “If you don’t get water in July and August your crops don’t grow well at all.”

Crops usually need around an inch of rain every four days, Genrich said. The figure can vary depending on how hot the weather is.

One challenge many farmers have faced is making bailed hay. The wet weather caused issues with drying hay.

“We had timely rains, that’s really been good for corn and beans, but did make it difficult to get some of the first hay crop without water in it,” Saxe said. “The quality of some first bailed hay isn’t where were hoping for it to be.”

The corn crop is solid as is the bean crop and winter wheat should start being harvested soon, Koepp said.

“All in all we can’t holler too much,” Koepp said.

According to the USDA Wisconsin Crop Progress and Condition report, corn is rated 76 percent good to excellent and soybeans are 75 percent good to excellent. Winter wheat is 91 percent good to excellent and pastures and hay are both 88 percent good to excellent. Potatoes are doing the best at 93 percent at good to excellent.

Last year, some crops had problems due to heavy rainfall early in the season and then a drying out. If water is plentiful early then the plants roots don’t dig as deep — not needing to search for water. Koepp said it is a concern for this year and hopefully the consistent rain continues.

“An inch a week would be nice,” Koepp said. “In some of low-lying areas, in parts of Columbia County, it’s a little sandy up toward the Dells They typically welcome the amount of rain we’ve gotten. Even look at our lawns.”

The high yield projection can also be an issue for farmers. The prices of corn and soy beans have been dropping due to the strong harvest expected. The most recent farm bill by the U.S. Congress contains subsidies for farmers if soy bean or corn prices drop too low.

“We’re in an environment now where it really is beneficial for farmers to pre-contract their grain,” Saxe said. “Or if at all possible, a percentage of it. The goal being to lock in some prices.”

Crop insurance is also an option for those wanting to have security in case of a bad yield. Genrich said a farmer has to have the insurance.

A few years ago corn was selling at a high price which led to many farmers planting more, Genrich said. With so much corn planted, the price was bound to drop. It’s common for agriculture to have cycles where one crop booms for a while and then sees a drop when everyone moves to it.

“These things work themselves out,” Genrich said. “It just takes time and the price will come around again.”

The Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board sent a press release saying farmer’s in the Midwest may be concerned about white mold affecting soy beans this year.

“White mold development is favored by cool, cloudy, wet, humid weather at flowering,” Damon Smith, assistant professor of plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in the release.

Genrich said this is the time of year when white mold will show itself, but he hasn’t heard any reports of problems so far.

Lawn diseases hard to diagnose

Published July 30, 2014

By Barb Larson

Question: I am hoping you are the correct person to contact with my lawn problem. I have necrotic ring spot on my lawn. I am looking for advice of handling this disease. Any information would greatly be appreciated. — B.T.

Answer: On the same day I received your email, the Kenosha County University of Wisconsin-Extension horticulture helpdesk master gardeners got a photo of a home lawn with light brown circles. Necrotic ring spot and summer patch are two different diseases caused by different fungi. Both diseases cause circular or ring patterns of tan grass in the lawn. Turfgrass diseases are notoriously difficult to diagnosis, even for professionals, so I can’t tell for sure which disease is causing the rings.

Regardless of the type of disease, home lawns should be treated with a combination of good cultural practices and re-seeding with disease resistant grass cultivars.

Irrigate deeply — so the soil is wet 3 to 4 inches deep — once a week, preferably in the morning. Two to three times per year (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day) apply a fertilizer containing at least 35-percent slow release nitrogen. If you don’t leave the clippings on the lawn, which is recommended, add a fourth fertilization around Independence Day.

Keep the mowing height at 3 to 3½ inches. The longer the grass blade is, the deeper the roots. Core aerate in May or September to decrease thatch and encourage deeper rooting.

Necrotic ring spot often disappears on its own after a few years of proper care. Disease resistant cultivars are available for necrotic ring spot and summer patch. In mid to late August, rake out dead grass and re-seed with resistant cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass.

I don’t recommend fungicides for home lawns. If you decide to use a fungicide, the cause of the lawn problem should be confirmed by a turfgrass lab before treatment. Send a lawn sample to the University of Wisconsin Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab in Verona. The cost is $20 for home lawn samples.

Their website at will give you information on how to send your sample. The lab will culture your sample, give you a diagnosis and suggest treatments. Fungicides are preventative and will not cure already diseased grass.

Master Gardener orientation

2014 Master Gardener Training Orientation will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Kenosha County Center, 19600 75th St. in Bristol. Orientation is an opportunity to learn more about the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. For more information, call 262-857-1945 or go to

— Barb Larson is horticulture educator for Kenosha County University of Wisconsin Extension. She has a master’s of science in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If you have a plant or gardening question, email her at or call her at 262-857-1942.

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Garden to Market program grows in Hurley

Submitted photo

HURLEY STUDENTS Riley Kangas and Hunter Fisk work in the garden at the K-12 School as part of the “Garden to Market” program. The program allows for students to grow and sell their own produce at the Iron County Farmers Market.

HURLEY – Students at the Hurley K-12 School are getting their hands dirty while planting, growing and selling produce from the school garden at the Iron County Farmers Market.

Every Wednesday, students sell their own produce at the market with the “Garden to Market” program under the guidance of the Iron County University of Wisconsin-Extension office.

According to Joy Schelble, Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program coordinator in Iron County, it is the second year students have participated in the program, with more kids participating this year.

“So far, it’s been really, really great,” Schelble said. “Although the garden season is a little slow, we’ve been able to grow and sell at the market since the first market took place.”

This season, students have sold lettuce, herbs and garlic. Schelble said some zucchini has been coming in, and she expects to begin selling peas next week.

In addition to growing food, students have traveled to regional farms to learn more about agriculture. Students also weed and water the garden.

“We really rely on the kids for the maintenance of the garden,” Schelble said. “We have a great group of kids, who are mostly middle school students. They do a great job.”

The garden also provides another opportunity to teach nutrition education to another group of students.

“We do nutrition education in the garden with the STARS kids at the school, and they enjoy it,” Schelble said. “We also talk to them about the opportunities in the Garden to Market program, so they may join in the future.”

Once school starts, the garden will also provide food for the school lunch program and the mobile food pantry in the county.

“This program is a collaboration across all the programs at UW-Extension,” Schelble said. “It’s a really neat program, and I am so honored and pleased to be a part of it.”

For more information on the Garden to Market program, call the Iron County UW-Extension office at 715-561-2695.

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Column: Options available when planting raspberries

Walk Rasmussen

Walk Rasmussen

11:07 p.m. CDT August 13, 2014

Raspberries have perennial roots and crowns, but the above-ground canes live only two summers. In the first summer the new cane is called a primocane, and on summer-bearing plants this will produce only vegetation. In the second summer the original primocane is now called a floricane. The floricane will produce one large crop and then die. Fall-bearing plants will produce fruit on the primocane sometime after Aug. 1. Fruit development continues until a killing frost. Also, in fall-bearing raspberries the cane that fruited the previous fall will continue to bear fruit the rest of the way down the cane the following summer and then die.

New primocanes emerge each year and grow together with the primocanes/floricanes from the previous year, so fruit production continues year after year. The spent floricanes should be removed after they have produced their crop. Pruning the dead canes is important; they will not produce again. Take out all dead canes from the summer-bearing berries and the tips of the ever-bearing canes to the point where they stopped bearing for the year. In fall or early spring prune primocanes by one-fourth to one-third; this will encourage branching of the remaining canes the next season and increase fruit production.

Raspberries grow best in full sunlight on an airy site protected from direct wind. Good air circulation and drainage are very important. Sandy soil is good if it has 5 to 7 percent organic matter and a neutral pH of 6 to 6.8. Plant bare-root stock in early spring after the temperatures are above 20 degrees at night and the ground is workable. Plants can be placed in a hedgerow 2 to 3 feet apart with rows 6 feet apart. Allow shoots to spread and fill in the row but not in between.

Established plantings require 1 pound ammonium nitrate per 100 feet of row in the spring. Mulching the rows helps preserve moisture but it should be less than 2 inches thick to prevent rodents from nesting. I have used the trellising method of planting and it works well. This method is described in the University of Wisconsin-Extension publication found at; in the search box type in “A1610.” It is titled “Growing Raspberries in Wisconsin.” This publication also discusses variety selection, pruning techniques and problem solving.

Irrigation should be provided from bloom until harvest. Plants need 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water every seven to 10 days. They also need adequate fall moisture to survive the winter. Overhead sprinklers can be used to extend the fall harvest season by preventing frost damage.

Walt Rasmussen is the summer horticultural assistant for the University of Wisconsin-Extension Portage County. To reach him, call 715-346-1589.

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Column: Parents’ roles change as homework gets harder

sherrydanielsnewmugAugust 23, 2014

Sitting down to help your child with homework is a routine for many parents. But when your child reaches middle school and beyond, homework assignments can become more challenging.

Even though you might not be able to help your teenager actually do their homework, you still can provide support.

Here are some tips for parents:

• First, agree on a time and place for homework. Help your student get organized with a place to study that is quiet with a space to work. Assist your teen in thinking about his or her long-term schedule since middle school assignments often need to be managed over days or weeks.

• Take advantage of online resources. Set up an online calendar or planner to help your teen map out progress and deadlines. Or, help your teen search an online learning community or blog centered on a specific subject.

• Parents should consider themselves one of their child’s teachers. While you may not be able to offer assistance with a math equation, you can provide encouragement, praise your student’s hard work and help them think of specific questions to ask the teacher for assistance.

Regular encouragement and discussions about school and education promote students’ college or training aspirations. Middle and high school students do better when their parents are involved in their school life. Parents’ high expectations also can improve teen success.

Parents of teens and tweens can find more information about parenting in the digital age on UW-Extension’s eParenting website at

Sherry Daniels is family living educator for University of Wisconsin-Extension Portage County. To reach her, call 715-346-1316.

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Asain crazy worm invades Appleton

wormAugust 28, 2014

The Asian crazy worm — a major threat to Wisconsin’s rich soils and forests — has been discovered in Appleton, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said.

“The DNR can confirm that the Asian crazy worm has been found in Appleton,” said Linda Williams, a forest health specialist for northeast Wisconsin. “We are not releasing the exact location, but it is within city limits. We do not know the extent of the infestation in Appleton.”

Fox Valley Poll: Are you worried about the Asian crazy worm?

The highly prolific worms quickly can transform native soils into a granular structure that inhibits growth of native plants. Vast numbers of crazy worms could devour the forest floor, officials said.

The worm gets its name from the wild, thrashing behavior it displays when removed from the soil. They are sometimes called “Alabama jumpers” or “snake worms.” The worms are not a threat to humans, don’t bite and don’t invade homes or property. They are identical to earthworms in nearly every way.

Kevin Jarek, crops soil and horticulture agent with the Outagamie County University of Wisconsin-Extension office in Appleton, said the discovery of the worm in Appleton could lead to nutrient-depleted soils if the worms continue to spread.

“One of the problems we have with invasives like crazy worms is that people find what they think is a ‘natural’ item, like worms for composting, and because they haven’t researched them adequately, they don’t realize that they are doing more harm than good by bringing them into Wisconsin and specifically Outagamie County, where they have been confirmed present in our soils,” Jarek said.

In fall 2013, the worm was discovered in portions of the UW-Madison Arboretum. Like common night crawlers, the crazy worm has adapted to living in Wisconsin soils.

While research is being done to determine the potential effects of these worms on Wisconsin soils, Jarek said they appear to be well-adapted.

“Even though we have tough, clay soils in many parts of Outagamie County, it appears that these worms have no problem burrowing deep enough to withstand our Wisconsin winters,” he said.

Williams said the DNR is forming a team of experts to advise policymakers on the problem of the Asian crazy worm and on any actions that might be taken.

“DNR pest experts are concerned because the Asian crazy worm, if it got that far (to Appleton), could affect the health of the Northwoods,” Williams said. “Essentially, the worms devour nutrients off the forest floor, leaving no nutrition for other species.”

Brandon Leitzke, seasonal horticulturist with the Outagamie County UW-Extension office, said the worm was brought here unintentionally.

“In this particular case, the worm was most likely brought in through the soil from plants transported from out of state,” Leitzke said. “It is important for homeowners to consider the potential risk when bringing non-native species into an area. Like many other invasive species, this introduction of crazy worm was unintentional.”

Many questions remain about how the worms get from one place to another, what damage they are likely to cause and how they can be controlled — if at all, said Kelly Kearns, endangered resources specialist with the DNR.

“We are still trying to figure out what people can best do to prevent the spread,” Kearns said. “If you know you have crazy worms in your yard, avoid digging plants and moving them elsewhere. You may also want to keep your leaves on your property as well as they could potentially get into your leaf pile and be moved along with the leaves when they are collected.”

— Rob Zimmer: 920-419-3734 or; on Twitter @YardMD

About the Asian crazy worm

The Asian crazy worm, similar to the common night crawler, differs in a few ways: The worms are exceptionally active and thrash about wildly when removed from the soil. In addition, the narrow band around the body, called the clitellum, is milky white and smooth, not raised from the body like in other worms.

The fact sheet from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provides identification information and can be found at

“Residents who suspect crazy worms should report findings to WDNR or consult with your area UW-Extension office,” said Brandon Leitzke, seasonal horticulturist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension Outagamie County office. “If possible, collect a sample to help confirm identification of this invasive worm. With the help of area residents, early detection is key to help reduce the spread of this invasive worm.”

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Wisconsin’s Biggest Weed contest winners announced

University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension

Updated: 08/28/2014

Despite the cool summer, plwftd+biggest+weed+2014enty of weeds were entered in the ‘Biggest Weed’ contest sponsored by University of Wisconsin-Extension/Madison Weed Experts at the recent Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. Of the many samples brought in for identification, eight participants submitted nine weeds they felt deserved the title of Biggest Weed.

“While none of the samples topped the 13 foot mark like last year, several were quite wide, making up for the lack of height,” said Mark Renz, University of Wisconsin-Extension/Madison weed specialist. “Of the nine samples submitted, four were annuals, four biennials, and only one perennial plant – common milkweed.”

Typically the biennial and perennial plants take the prize, but this year a giant ragweed was the grand champion. Wayne Greeler from Neillsville, Wisconsin brought in this specimen that was over 10 feet tall and seven feet wide. The overall size of the plant is determined by multiplying the weed’s height by the maximum width when held in its normal growth form.

Renz said, “It is uncommon for a giant ragweed to get this wide but the extra girth allowed it to take the grand prize.”

Tuesday’s winner was another giant ragweed submitted by Ken McGwin from Montello. It was much taller than the grand champion, more than 12 feet, but only four feet wide. Wednesday’s winner Mary Jane Fry from Pittsville did bring in a massive bull thistle, but its dimensions couldn’t match the winners from Tuesday or Thursday.

“All submissions were found next to a barn, shed, fence, or tree,” Renz noted, “So apparently having a structure nearby helps. Remember this tip when we hold the event next year at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Dane County.”

All daily winners will receive a weed identification book, as thanks for hauling these winning specimens to Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. Anyone who has tried to bring in one of these plants can attest that it is no easy task.

For more information about identifying and controlling weeds in your field or yard, contact your local county Extension agent or visit the University of Wisconsin Weed Science website at

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Video Series Created to Explain Implements of Husbandry Law

Wisconsin Ag Connection 9/05/2014

As a way to untangle any confusion over Wisconsin’s new Implements of Husbandry law, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the state’s transportation department and University of Wisconsin Extension, have teamed up to create a video to explain the many elements of the legislation.

“These training videos are designed to give farmers and local government officials easy access to basic information they will need before harvest equipment starts hitting the roads and highways this fall,” said DATCP Communications Director Jim Dick. “Many farmers may not even realize there are new requirements for the equipment they’ve been driving on public roads for years.”

The topics for these nine videos include new definitions of IoH and an Agricultural Commercial Motor Vehicle or Ag-CMV. It also explains weight limits, lighting and markers, rules of the road, local options for municipalities and more. The series of videos can be found at:

These videos supplement in-person educational IoH sessions being held around the state that are coordinated by the UW-Extension and the DOT.

“UW-Extension is also getting requests for programs to help farmers determine the axle weights and gross vehicle weight of their equipment,” said Cheryl Skjolaas, Interim Director at the UW Center for Agricultural Safety and Health. “We have portable scales on loan from the Wisconsin State Patrol that can be used for weight limit demonstrations. Anyone interested in such a program should also contact their county extension office.”

Skjolaas says there are a number of changes in the IoH law that will affect farmers immediately. Other changes won’t take effect until next year.

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